Dead Rising: Watchtower (2015)
I must admit that as much as I love zombies and the zombie sub-genre, I was starting to get burned out on the seemingly endless stream of zombie flicks hitting VOD and other various digital platforms. Those of you who know me are probably raising one eyebrow because you know I have my first novel (the first in a zombie trilogy), OUTBREAK: THE HUNGER, due out later this year from Severed Press (oops… was that just a shameless self-promotion? Yup!!). But it’s true. I am burned out on zombies flicks. I guess it’d be more accurate to say I was getting burned out. Last weekend I watched DEAD RISING: WATCHTOWER on Crackle. In case you haven’t heard of Crackle, this is another streaming service that offers Hollywood films, TV shows, and they produce their own original programs as well. Crackle is backed by Sony Pictures Entertainment and unlike Hulu or Netflix, there’s no monthly fee … but all the programs (movies included) have commercials in them (more on this below).
DEAD RISING: WATCHTOWER was produced and made for Crackle and man is it a fun flick!! It’s based on the popular DEAD RISING video game and unlike the RESIDENT EVIL and SILENT HILL films, DEAD RISING: WATCHTOWER actually gets it right. The story centers around Chase Carter (Jesse Metcalfe), a reporter who’s one exaggeration away from being the next Brian Williams and who wants nothing more than to make his mark in the world of journalism. But Carter realized just how competitive his field has gotten. He needs a scoop; something to make him stand out from the rest of the journalists. As the film opens we learn that a containment wall was placed around East Mission, Oregon due to a zombie outbreak. This marks the third outbreak in the U.S. in the last ten years. The government also has Zombrex, a drug people can take after they’ve been infected that helps them stave off the zombie virus. The only problem is that infected individuals need to take the drug every day.
Carter and his camerawoman, Jordan (Keegan Connor Tracy), manage to sneak into the city and Carter is expecting to get some kind of big scoop. He points out that no reporters ever go into hot zones and this will make his career. After Carter sneaks into a tent where F.E.Z.A agents (DEAD RISING’s version of FEMA) are giving out Zombrex shots, he witnesses three patients turning into zombies seconds after being given the shot. All hell breaks loose and Carter and Jordan are separated. Jordan makes her way out of the quarantine zone but Carter is stuck inside. He teams up with Crystal (Meghan Ory), a pretty kick ass gal who needs her Zombrex every day, and Maggie (Virginia Madsen), a devastated woman who recently lost her young daughter to the virus.
The government has locked down the quarantine zone and isn’t evacuating anyone (even non-infected people) because of the reports that the Zombrex drug isn’t working. The government is afraid that the virus either mutated and became stronger or that it’s now airborne. Either way nobody gets out of the quarantine zone. The military is called in and as the story unfolds we learn of a conspiracy put in place by some powerful people who aren’t quite as they seem. General Lyons (Dennis Haysbert) is there to ensure no one gets out of the city, and he’s also there to determine if the head of F.E.Z.A., Norton (Gary Jones), is to blame for any wrongdoings. If you like zombie-conspiracy stories based on violent video games, then DEAD RISING: WATCHTOWER is for you!!
This may have been made by a streaming service, but there’s nothing cheap looking about this film. The acting is solid from the entire cast and there’s quite a few familiar faces. But best yet is that the zombies look great and the special f/x were really fun and they didn’t skimp on the red stuff. Keep in mind that DEAD RISING: WATCHTOWER wasn’t made to be a contender for the 2015 Academy Awards. This is a B-movie through and through that happens to have above average production values. We get some good gore and the zombies follow the video game in that they use weapons and tools to sometimes kill humans. And yes, these are fast zombies. Fast zombies don’t always work, but they work in the video game and they work in this movie. Another element this film carries over from the games is the ability for characters to build their own weapons out of other items. Carter, Crystal, and Maggie get away from a horde of zombies, hole up in a pawn shop, and create some pretty bad as weapons. Sometimes the gimmick doesn’t always work. Maggie, for example, finds a twelve-inch machete and duct tapes it to a long wooden pole. Why? You just made a great weapon flimsy!! I always prefer a zombie film or novel that doesn’t rely too heavily on their characters using guns, and DEAD RISING: WATCHTOWER definitely doesn’t lean on the use of guns much.
My two biggest complaints with this film is the over-reliance on CGI blood for scenes when zombies are getting messed up with weapons. All the CGI blood splattering really killed the moment and took me out of the film. I understand that using real blood costs a lot of money, but damn … start a IndieGoGo campaign to finance your blood budget. I bet that’ll hit goal in record time!! My other complaint was the commercials (I watched it on Crackle). This is no fault of the film, and I don’t blame Crackle; they need to pay for the film somehow!! You should also expect to get commercials on anything you watch on Crackle. It comes with the territory. But damn, there were so many commercials. It really killed the flow of the film and interrupted the action on many occasions. But the good news is that this film will be hitting DVD, VOD, and other commercial-free platforms in the near future so you can watch it uninterrupted. I know I’ll be watching it again.
Is DEAD RISING: WATCHTOWER the best zombie film you’ll ever watch? No, but it is a lot of fun, packed full of great looking zombies, zombie gore, action, and fun weapons. I also liked the conspiracy aspect of the story that slowly unfolds. There’s also a huge nod to the original DEAD RISING video game. At different times during the film, we’d get a “news update” about what’s going on, and the anchorwoman has Frank West (Rob Riggle) in the studio as an expert on zombie outbreaks. If you’re not familiar with the games, West was the main character of the first DEAD RISING game and in the movie he wrote a book about how to survive a zombie outbreak. And don’t worry, West is just as big a schmuck in the film as his character was in the video game.
Definitely check out DEAD RISING: WATCHTOWER, but I recommend waiting until it’s released on a different platform in order to avoid all the commercials. Goddamn there were a lot of commercials!! Don’t miss this one. There’s a lot of fun to be had.
Director: Zach Lipovsky
Plot: 4 out of 5 stars
Gore: 6.5 out of 10 skulls
Zombie Mayhem: 4.5 out of 5 brains
Reviewed by Scott Shoyer